Religion VS Relationship

I’m unsure if it’s just me, but lately I’ve seen the subject of “Religion” VS a concept of the pure “Relationship with Christ” debate.

Given that this has been a source of much interest for me lately I was happy to see this post appear today from churchleaders.com.

Shortly after seeing the post I shared a link to it with Facebook friends.  To my delight there was an opposing view to my personal take on the subject which I’d like to touch on today to get your input on.

First I would highly encourage you to check out Dictionary.com’s definitions of RELIGION and RELIGIOUS.  Keep those in mind as you read on.

It’s difficult to tell if people are referring to different denominations when the subject of religion is brought about or whether it’s slander against religion as a whole. It has become too normal to bash religion when, in fact, religion is sort of like a map that guides us to believe what we believe as we progress deeper into our respective faith groups. Denominationally speaking, yes some are focused on good versus bad, karma, multiple gods, etc., but without religion as a whole there is no guidance. One can’t simply say “Well I think this is what Jesus would do” if they have no reference of what He did. That, in turn, is where religion comes in. The religion of Jesus Christ and His teachings, in the Christian Church body, is our guidance for that. If anything I would have to argue that there is a “rule book” we do religiously follow…The Bible

I’ll be the first person to tell you I had no idea what God’s view on certain things in my life were, sin wise. I had no idea that some of the things I was doing that were so casual were actually sins in His eyes. There’s no way I would have found this out without going to some sort of organized religious worship center or doing research through the scripture. I think all of us have experienced that when we’ve come upon something and said “Wait…that’s a sin?!”  Believe it or not, we’ve all got a lot of learning to do on God’s word regardless of what level we may be at, new and seasoned believers alike.  If it comes to the point that you’re no longer growing then you may want to take an inward look on why that is. 

All that being said, I feel people are taking the term “Religion“, or even “Religious” far out of context and failing to see that following Christ, or any other deity for that matter in other applicable circumstances, is a religion in itself. I would, by both referencing the aforementioned definition of “religion” and “religious”, and through personal studies and exploration, go as far as to say without religion we would have had no foundation for what was soon to be our relationship with Christ after discovering it for the first time and that those are easily interchangeable meaning that one inevitably leads to the other.

I appreciated the challenge from my friend to make me to go deeper as it was a good way today to get me even more fired up for how thankful I am that Christ gave us this ability to love Him, His Church, AND His religious teachings.
Thanks Jesus!
300px-Buddy_christ
Advertisements

Finish Friday Strong

Earlier this week I had posted about the young man who I ran across in the Emergency Room at the hospital I’m currently working on a project in.  I touched on the fact that he was so happy, despite his current situation of being burned all over his body, which truly amazed me.  Though what he was dealing with was not my main point on that post I want to re-visit that situation and touch on some points to ponder.

This morning as I prayed while driving to work I couldn’t help but selfishly ask God “Please make this day go by quick…” repeatedly.

Don’t worry, eyes were open and hands on the wheel.  Not so sure how “I was praying” would fly with the driver I ran into, or the police that come to the site for that matter.  “Sorry Officer…I was going before the Lord in prayer…have you been saved?”  Not the best way to witness.

I’m sitting here asking myself “Why was it I was asking for a speedy day specifically?  I enjoy what I do.  The drive may be long but it’s peaceful and I get to listen to some audio books.  In addition I really can’t say that I’m currently in a rut”.  I again was only thinking of my current situation of wanting to start the weekend with my fiance’ and get started on this semester’s school work as quickly as possible.

In hindsight, I wish we had a “Prayer delete” button.  I could be mistaken but I’m pretty sure scripture doesn’t touch on that.

I was again reminded of that young man I passed by the other day.  I thought “Thank you God for not giving me that fight.”

Many of us deal with our different struggles.  Some alcohol or drugs, some financial, some sexual, some the irresistible urge to eat Joe’s cupcake out of the communal fridge in the break room (That lumps theft, gluttony, and who knows what else into one), and many other things this world thrusts in front of us without our willingness to accept, no matter how big or small.  However, take heart in the fact that whatever you’ve been given by God is given to you specifically and can be handled and overcome ONLY by you (and in the stealing of Joe’s cupcake situation a little help from your local gym or trainer).

I thank God that I didn’t have to deal with a lot of struggles that could possibly happen to me.  At the same time, however, I am thankful that God has given me my own hurdles to overcome.  That’s right, I am thankful for them.

I may not be convincing you guys lately that I’m not crazy due to some of the stuff I went through, but to back up what I mean by that I’m reminded of the book of James.  Reading through it I didn’t quite grasp at first what he said to “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” in James 1:2

It took me a while to take from the scripture that we are being told that the simple fact we have the ability to face our own struggles and then turn it around and use it as our witness and testimony to glorify God.  Your biggest struggle might only be that you said “Fiddlesticks” (or another choice of “colorful” words) last week in the foyer of the Church when you found out they were out of coffee.  If that’s your struggle I want to shake your hand and get some pointers on how to up my game.

What does this have to do with finishing strong on this Friday after, for some of us, a long work week (and some may not end until tomorrow, so just “re read” tomorrow if you would be so kind to do so)?  Be encouraged that whatever you have been given is just as much as you can handle and in due time will be used as a story for witness and testimony.  Take a look at whatever situation your dealing with from an outside point of view.

Go into the weekend with wisdom from your current situation and tell yourself “I’m bringing my own coffee and cupcakes next week”.

Image

Love you guys

My Friend, the Atheist

Over the duration of my time in the Christian faith I’ve sensed a common theme among the masses (masses of people, not the Catholic service, though I did attend a lot of those as well). That theme being that there is some sort of invisible force keeping us away from “Non-Believers”, “Secular People”, or a whole other host of names we like to call “them“.

What is the reason that a lot of times we’re afraid to go outside of the box?  I do say “we” because at one point I was there too.  I get it though.  Once you step outside of said box you’re asked questions about your well being as if you’d been brutally attacked by a mountain lion, or statements are thrown at you such as “We haven’t seen you in group…is everything alright?”  The concern is always appreciated, believe me.  However, if every single Church event is not attended this doesn’t mean I’m leaving the Church itself.  Sometimes Christians just want to hang with non-Christians.  Sometimes it’s for witnessing and sometimes it’s just because there’s good people that aren’t Christians out there…yeah I know, I couldn’t believe it at first either! (Humor people, humor)

One thing we need to learn as the body of Christ followers is that we need to step away from our lives being involved ONLY with Christian activities and groups.  If we believe the gospel that we say we do then we need to find people that have a) Never heard it, b) Don’t believe in it, c) Need to come back to it, or a whole other host of issues.  Sunday is a time to worship our God, learn a fantastic message from our pastor, and use that knowledge to spread among the peoples of this world.  This could be done in a small group, yes, but I also suggest taking the time to reach at least one person outside of the Christian faith to lead and quite possibly disciple to.  Read Matthew 28, that should sum it up for ya’.

This doesn’t always need to be done by spitting Bible verses or even declaring your Christianity for that matter.  

As James said James 2:14-26 “Faith without Works is Dead”.

St. Francis of Assisi was also quoted saying “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” 

You can declare it all day, up and down, that you’re a Christian but showing people is going to do a lot more.  I don’t mean showing them because you feel you “have to” to that volunteer work, or you “have to” go out of your way to help somebody.  Do it only with a joyful heart.  

Back to “them“…

Take my good friend from home state of KY for example.  I’d have to say he’s hands down my best friend and has been for a while.  Though we don’t get to see each other but on a brief occasion when I go to my hometown in KY, I do enjoy a brief chat from time to time to see how things are going.  I especially love our chats on theology because he is…get ready for it…an atheist.  

OH MY LORD HAVE MERCY!  

That’s right…and he hasn’t been struck down by fire or lightning.  Another shocker, he’s a pretty rad dude!  They’re not all blood sucking vampires like some like to think

Image

Does his absence of faith effect mine?  I feel comfortable saying it does not.  If anything, it strengthens it.  Does my faith bring him closer to Christ?  I’d like to think so, but realistically speaking I don’t think it’s making a dent.  This is completely OK with me.  

It was said in the book of Matthew, Romans, etc. that Christ sat down with sinners.  He hung out with regular people.  In modern times he would’ve been grabbing a cup of coffee with that guy that cheated on his wife.  He would have taken a walk in the park with that girl that shot up on heroine right before they met up that afternoon.  He would’ve hung out with YOU AND I before we accepted Him.  Remember, we weren’t so different than the people we try so hard to separate ourselves from, and sometimes still aren’t.  

We are neither better nor worse in God’s eyes.   So why is it so difficult for some to hang out with their old crowd?  Some find that they may stumble.  I am not advocating this in any way.  If you physically cannot be around a crowd without falling again into a life of perpetual sin, then by all means do NOT do this.  I myself avoided a lot of locations for a long period of time before I was at a point where I was strong enough to face them again. 

If you have reached that point then I would encourage you to reach out to the people you may have left behind.  You never know…they might need you now more than ever.